The third season of American Crime Story examines the scandal involving Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. It is a testament to the chilling sexism of a not so distant time.
A young dark-haired woman on the verge of tears, fallen rather than sitting on the carpet of a hotel room, surrounded by men who all wear the same stern suits. Their fuzzy silhouettes pass and repass in front of her, encircling her and then isolating her in the frame.
If we had to summarize the intention of the third season of American Crime Story, broadcast since Thursday, October 21 on Canal and of which you can already find the first 8 episodes on the MyCanal platform, surely it would be enough to show these images- there, from episode 6.
Because this young woman is Monica Lewinsky, propelled in front of the cameras of all the televisions of the world in 1998 as the-intern-who-gave-fellatio-to-Bill-Clinton. And these men are the investigators tasked with shedding light on this extramarital affair that led to impeachment proceedings against the then US president.
The intention of the series, created by the indefatigable Ryan Murphy – Glee, Pose, Ratched or Hollywood, that’s him – and co-produced by Monica Lewinsky herself, is to show how this scandal, au- beyond its political stakes, was first the mirror of an American society quick to crush women.
As with the previous two seasons of ACS, which respectively focused on the O.J. murder trial. Simpson and the assassination of fashion designer Gianni Versace, Ryan Murphy and screenwriter Sarah Burgess set out to reconstruct the facts as accurately as possible.
And it all starts with a character that the French public is unlikely to know: Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson), a White House official transferred to her dismay to the Pentagon during a service restructuring. There, she meets Monica Lewinsky, another exile against her will, albeit for very different reasons.
When Monica Lewinsky tells her that she has an intimate relationship with Bill Clinton, Linda Tripp sees it as an opportunity to take revenge on an administration that has humiliated her – and a Democratic government she, as a good Republican, cordially hates.
She then records her conversations with the young woman, then convinces her to keep without cleaning the famous blue dress on which we find a trace of semen which will serve as proof. Before ditching everything to the press and the FBI, very interested in the subject since he is investigating another case: a certain Paula Jones, a civil servant, accuses Bill Clinton of sexual harassment.
Most striking in the series is the way in which the two women, each victims in their own way of the American president, are only pawns.
For seven episodes, Monica Lewinsky – played by the excellent Beanie Feldstein – will be presented as a young naïve trapped by those around her. By the most powerful man in the world first, who dangles her affection and a lasting position in the White House, then by Linda Tripp, who earns her trust before betraying her, and finally by the investigators themselves- same, who absolutely do not respect the most basic rights of a litigant.
For her part, Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford, whose subtle performance is unfortunately overshadowed by a cumbersome nasal prosthesis) only comes to file a complaint against Bill Clinton (Clive Owen, who is also entitled to his false nose) because others force her to do so: first her husband, furious that one might think he is a cuckold, then her lawyer, more interested in the opportunity to bring down a president than in well-being and need justice of his client.
Unsurprisingly, the media tornado that befalls Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones once the affair comes to light, made up of gritty questions, interviews with revengeful former boyfriends and degrading imitations in late shows, is not more lenient.
All of this might have been artificial if Ryan Murphy and Sarah Burgess hadn’t given so much importance and depth to the character of Linda Tripp, who takes on the austere tailoring of the “big bad” in this story.
Portrayed onscreen by an unrecognizable Sarah Paulson, Linda Tripp is also the pure product of a company that leaves very little room for women to be exactly what is expected of them.
The veteran government official runs on slimming milkshakes for breakfast (her first conversation with Monica Lewinsky is about the benefits of Weight Watchers programs), drags decades of insults to her physique, and has a relationship with the young woman. more complex than it seems.
Far from simply abusing the former intern and her innocence to fuel her vengeful crusade, Linda Tripp is also the only one who recognizes that she can be manipulated by a man who, in addition to occupying the Oval Office, is double his age. Finally, she too will suffer the sexism of the media, with a poignant false resignation.
It is surely in the depravity of this character, hated but created from nothing by the world around him, and in this description of an impossible sorority that Impeachment finds its greatest success.
With the trial of O.J. Simpson as with the assassination of Gianni Versace, Ryan Murphy and Sarah Burgess looked back on two great cases to tell, beyond the racial issue and the perception of homosexuality in the United States in the 1990s, how this era could have been a harbinger of ours.
If amateurs of criminal stories may regret the absence of a corpse, it is around several bodies that all the thinking of this third season of American Crime Story revolves: those of invisible, forced, judged women. , pitted against each other and condemned for a long time in general indifference.
American Crime Story: Impeachment is on myCANAL
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